Fil-Am opens immigration hearings in US Senate


Jose Antonio Vargas

LOS ANGELES—“What do you want to do with me?” Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino-American journalist Jose Antonio Vargas asked the members of the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday.

“For all the undocumented immigrants who are actually sitting here at this meeting, for the people watching online and for the 11 million of us, what do you want to do with us?” Vargas asked the lawmakers.

Vargas was testifying on behalf of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States at a hearing that opened the debate over immigration reform in the US Senate.

Vargas, 31, was part of a Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 2008 Virginia Tech massacre. He disclosed his undocumented status in the United States in a report in The New York Times in 2011.

He has since become a popular figure in the national campaign for immigration reform, making it to the cover of the June 25, 2012, issue of Time magazine.

Earlier this month, Vargas was invited to sit in the front row at a Las Vegas high school auditorium where US President Barack Obama announced an overhaul of the US immigration laws.

During his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, Obama again spoke about pressing for immigration reform.

“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our shores,” he said.

Obama has repeatedly pledged to make the immigration reform bill one of his top legislative priorities.

The bill includes dealing with border security, enforcement measures for businesses that employ undocumented immigrants, and the status of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including young people seeking college degrees or admission into military service.

Vargas recounted before the Senate committee how he discovered his undocumented status as a teenager and how he kept it a secret as a working journalist. He related how his mother, Emilie Salinas, sent him to California in 1993 when he was 12 to live with his grandparents.

“My mother gave me up to give me a better life,” he told the committee.

As part of his Senate testimony, Vargas introduced members of his family who sat behind him: His grandmother Leonila Salinas and aunt Aida Rivera, who raised him, and his uncle Conrad Salinas, who served in the US Navy for 20 years.


“I am the only one in my extended family of 25 Americans who is undocumented,” he said. “When you inaccurately call me ‘illegal,’ you’re not only dehumanizing me, you’re [also] offending them. No human being is illegal.”

Vargas—who has been promoting the passage of the Dream Act, which would open a pathway to the legalization of the status of thousands of undocumented young immigrants—called for an immigration reform that is “fair” and “humane.”

“Let us remember that immigration is not merely about borders,” he said at the hearing that was the Senate’s first step toward crafting a comprehensive immigration reform bill. “Immigration is about our future. Immigration is about all of us,” he said.

Path to citizenship

“We dream of a path to citizenship so we can actively participate in our American democracy,” added Vargas, who has also launched the “Define American” campaign to harness support for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, 1 million of whom are Filipinos.

“We dream of not being separated from our families and our loved ones regardless of sexual orientation, no matter our skill set,” Vargas said.

The committee heard testimony from individuals with various areas of expertise and political agendas, including Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. With additional reporting from Inquirer Research

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  • john

    How would the Phil act if I visited and took the jobs of filipinos with my construction skills? How many family members do you list who could have sponsored you at any time?Are you going to vote for the Subversive in Chief? Or, did you already register under motor voter?

  • DakuAkongUtin

    Wow, bakit ka naman nagmamayabang  ? Balik ka sa Kayumangmang Nation and join Phil Inquirer. Mabuti pa yata !

  • DakuAkongUtin

    Kilig na kilig na ang mga illegal TNTs sa Tate. Lalong yumayabang kasi si Obama na ang savior nila. Ang mga illegals mas mahasul pa sa tutuong citizens ng Amerika. Ang sagot pa ay parang bastos. E deport ninyo yan balik sa kanilang pinanggalingan.

  • MC M

    There are daily long lines of Pinoys AND US Citizens spending time, money, submitting DNA samples, undergoing medicals and going through the process according to procedure. Like the procedures or not, they are doing it and the US Embassy Manila employs (approx) 1,000 locals and around 300 Americans, most of which deal with this and visas on a daily basis. Other US Embassies and Consulates around the world are also getting good numbers of Pinoy applicants as well.  

    Children are unable to understand or apply for governmental services, so children born of people who were LEGALLY in the US (at the time) may need some rethinking. There should be a reasonable time limit to claim once a person reaches an age where cognizance of the issue can be achieved; however, popping out of the blue many years later and yelling foul is not acceptable in my opinion. If you entered the US legally and if you are still in the US illegally; just as with any other country: pay your fines, clear your file and exit and reenter according to procedures if your are not PNG. If you came illegal and are still illegal… please hurry home.  

    Question: What is the US statute of limitations to prosecuting companies who knowingly hire illegal workers? Or perhaps Mr. Vargas perjured his applications to these institutions when seeking employment? Is he still employed? 

    The article needs correcting. He is not a Filipino – American Journalist as his public testimony admits he is not a US Citizen. If he can follow the procedures and prove he has a right to Citizenship, then let him follow the process, submit documents, maybe DNA or whatever else is required, just like everyone else doing it legally. There are many other frustrated yet patient people who are following the current procedures as dictated by the authorities. Why should they / he get a pass or some special process? His parents were also obviously irresponsible if he has no other nationality or is “without Papers”. Until recently it only took a few days to get a Pinoy passport when you are already abroad and outside the Phils. He is not an undocumented Immigrant, he is only undocumented. Saying he is an immigrant would assume there was some legal process that was followed. Would love to hear from his Parents who obviously started this mess.    


    • Rovingmoron

      You’re saying this because you’re not in the position of Jose Antonio Vargas. But if you’re one of the millions of undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S., I bet you’ll remain silent over the issue. Common, don’t be such a boastful person for God knows what is in your heart and mind. Talagang di maalis sa ating mga Pinoy ang pagiging makasarili. Makaangat lang ang iba sa atin ay hihilahin ka pababa. What kind of mentality is this? Di ba kayabangan ang ganitong ugali?

      • MC M

        No it is not the habit of arrogance and I don’t see where I was boasting. It is the agitated voice of experience, as my family undergoes the process legally for one child who is not (yet) confirmed her US citizenship, whilst one child is a US Citizen. As responsible parents of both nations, when we were having difficulties in obtaining the US citizenship document for our eldest who was born in the Phils, and we were living and working abroad in a third country,we opted for a Pinoy passport to reunite our family quicker. A possible mistake in retrospect, but In order to quickly give her an identity, nationality, citizenship, self respect and rights as a citizen in a timely manner we went that route. We could then educate her, travel with her and take good care of her, we opted for a quicker process with the Phil authorities until we could all afford to relocate and undergo the US process legally. Living abroad my family had undergone deportations before, exiting countries and readjusting immigration status, paid fines. Tjis is not a US thing, it is a global thing when undergoing immigration procedures. We have completed them all in accordance to the laws and the country, we were resident within the time. For the US process, we have given DNA, paid money, stood in lines, had family separations. suffered financial hardship and have and are still patiently and professionally waiting for the process to complete and according to law and procedure. We don’t like it, in fact we hate it. But we have to do it and will complete the process as legally required. 

        Mr. Vargas and many others under the new laws in the Philippines regarding reclamation of citizenship can possibly reclaim his nationality, dignity, rights as a citizen of the Phils and can then immigrate legally like the rest of good law abiding Pinoys who are undergoing the process and suffering similar hardship during the process. He has choices. His mother could have given him his birth right of being a Citizen of the Phils easily enough. Or is there something wrong with being a Citizen of the Philippines… My wife and I don’t think so.      

  • Karabukov

    For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.— Matthew 20:1–16, King James Version

  • Rovingmoron

    Some people are blessed because they came legally to the United States. Yet they say things that they don’t understand what they’re talking about. I’m saying this again, if they are in the same predicament as those of the millions undocumented immigrants who came to the US for economic reasons, they would feel indifferent to what is happening now in so far as the immigration system is being addressed. Mahiya hiya nga tayo sa ating mga sarili at akala ng mga naunang nakapunta dito sa America ay “chosen people” sila. Tingnan nyo nga mga balat nyo kung anong kulay? Di ba kayumanggi? What are you trying to prove?

    • MC M

      Hindi ako Kayumanggi po. Why bring up skin colour? Coming to a foreign country for economic reasons does not grant a person the right of citizenship. 25 dollars and a very small burden of proof can reclaim Filipino citizenship from a Pinoy consulate or Embassy, where as a (newly) dignified and respected citizen of the Philippines an immigration process or visa process can be undertaken. 

      The single most difficult part of obtaining a visa to the US via Manila is proving that you will return / exit the US upon the visa expiry date. There are so many rejections of good Pinoys happening because they are unable to decisively convince a consular officer that they will return and not go TNT. 1 million illegal Filipinos make it 1 million times harder for those who follow the legal process, both for visas and immigration petitions. There are probably a few cases that will need to be dealt with on an exceptional basis. I acquiesce on this point, but only that these people will be a small minority amongst the million.

      However, the good are being unfairly punished and over scrutinized due to the actions of the ones who have chosen an illegal path. There should be no reward for this in my rather vociferous and acerbically written opinion. 


      • Rovingmoron

        By the way, who gave you the authority to question the movement of people from one place to another? May I ask you this. Have you contributed to the expenses and efforts that these people put in applying for a US visa? If not, then why bother so much about it? Besides, it is no longer your problem if these people remain where they are and they are not bothering you anyway for their daily subsistence. It would be better if you can just shut up. Don’t tell me that you’re more of an authority than President Obama. Don’t be sharing to us your kind of craps. If you can, write a letter to the US president and tell him how you feel about his plan for the more than 11 million illegal immigrants now in the U. S. Para sa akin, kung sino pa tong Pinoy ay sya itong masyadong discriminator. Which is the reason why the Philippines won’t really move forward because of our crab mentality. Besides, yung sobra nating pagiging ingetiro sa kapwa natin. Ganito na lang siguro. Kung ako sa inyo ay magpasalamat na lang kayo kay Lord na nalagpasan nyo na itong mga paghihirap na to at hayaan nyo na lang kung ano man yung pinagdaraanan ng milyon nating mga kababayan na nasadlak sa ganitong sitwasyon. That’s all I can say. Thanks.

      • MC M

        Where did you see that I or any one else in this forum exert any authority or claim such? Your argument is emotional and juvenile. AND YES: I have (as stated earlier) PAID LOTS OF MONEY, stood in lines and faced family separations for my kayumanggi wife. I am very familiar with the process as I have gone through it, given DNA ($$) etc. We will continue to follow the LEGAL process. I wont tell you I am more of an authority than anyone and I never made such a claim. I am however very experienced with immigration and citizenship processes in other countries including the US and the Phils. By the way, “craps” needs no “s”  when the singular form of “crap” would have sufficed in your attempt to insult. I am PRO immigration, I am PRO Pinoy, I am anti illegal with a possible few exceptions where children are involved. I would like to hear of your experiences with immigration and visa processes to the US please. Maybe crap as you have suggested, but I am not one of the crabs you are in reference to.  

  • Hunter421

    Undocumented immigrant = illegal alien

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